By Yohana Desta2014-10-02 16:32:05 UTC

Permanent Records sits on an idyllic block in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Or rather, it used to.

The vinyl shop, regularly named one of New York City’s best by local news outlets like Gothamist and Time Out New York, lost its lease. Anyone walking by the store would know it, with signs screaming, “Lost our lease” and “We’re moving” through the front windows in all caps. To cement the move, store owner Marjorie Eisenberg has been ringing customers up herself the last few weeks, handing out business cards with the store’s new location.

“I’ve kind of already moved on mentally from Greenpoint,” she tells Mashable. It’s a steely and secure statement from a woman who remembers the area before it was hailed Brooklyn’s next “It” neighborhood.

Like many record store owners before her, she now faces the task of spinning something new out of an old business. Doing it in an ever-changing borough landscape is part of the challenge.

Permanent Records’ former location was on Franklin Street.

Image: Elizabeth Pierson/Mashable

Eisenberg shared the news of the move on the store’s Facebook page on Aug. 12, clarifying that it was not closing because of poor sales, but rather because the landlord would not permit them to renew the lease.

“None of you reading this will be shocked to hear that after months of looking for an affordable suitable storefront, we’re now priced out of the neighborhood we helped to shape. It’s an all too common story in the NYC retail / small business landscape,” she wrote.

Greenpoint, a quieter neighborhood in New York City’s coolest borough, is on the rise. For the past few years, the neighborhood, once defined by its industrial atmosphere and many Polish residents, has been steadily growing in popularity. Kickstarter recently opened a new headquarters on Kent Street, taking over an old pencil factory. Real estate moguls have also been snapping up buildings in the area, set to convert them into pricey pads.

Just last year, real estate investors Joseph Chetrit and David Bistricer moved forward on plans to build two luxury high-rises on the Greenpoint waterfront, with the aim to create 200 units of affordable housing. Moses Gates, who handles affordable housing affairs for the Associate of Neighborhood and Housing Development, told Capital New York outright that the new units “are not affordable to the average resident of the neighborhood.” And it’s just one of the neighborhood’s many development plans, joining at least 12 other mega projects in the works.

In 2000, Greenpoint was 57% white, 31% Hispanic, 3% African-American, 3% Asian and 3% other. In 2010, those demographics changed to 77% white, 15% Hispanic, 1% African-American, 5% Asian and 2% other. According to an analysis from, a two-bedroom apartment in a pre-war building costs about $2,700, while rent in a new building could be anywhere from $3,800 to $4,400. In 2000, the average rent for an apartment would have been around $737.

The New York Times has called it the new Williamsburg, currently Brooklyn’s reigning “hipster” neighborhood. Once a cheap haven for creative types who couldn’t afford Manhattan, Williamsburg now runneth over with real estate developers building high-rises and converting industrial buildings into apartments.

permanent records

A customer steps out of Permanent Records. Closing signs feature prominently on the storefront windows.

Image: Elizabeth Pierson/Mashable

From the local point of view, Greenpoint’s trendy makeover is happening quite slowly. The perception is that it’s rapidly becoming more vendor-friendly, more appealing to young people and more welcoming to outsiders who want to escape from Manhattan for somewhere new.

“The market value of places over there is so inflated, and it’s on a projected value — what’s going to happen in two or three years is what they’re banking on,” Eisenberg says of Greenpoint’s movers and shakers, realtors and business folks who are snatching up vacant buildings, in an interview with Mashable.

The vinyl shop’s landlord is probably counting on that projected value cost. Matthew Milligan, the store’s manager, says the current vacant spots near P-Recs (as it’s affectionately dubbed) are extremely expensive. That was part of Eisenberg’s impetus to chart out new territory. She dug around online and found a new home for the store via Craigslist in a Brooklyn neighborhood called — well, she’s not sure what to call it.

permanent records

Image: Elizabeth Pierson/Mashable

South of the pricey Park Slope neighborhood and bordering on Gowanus is an area people have taken to calling South Slope. Or Greenwood Heights. Some realtors will still firmly refer to it as Park Slope.

“It’s a little bit in that sort of nebulous zone,” Milligan says, in between stacking packages and marking them with the word “Fragile,” preparing for the big move.

According to local outlet South Slope News, it’s a neighborhood that “might go by many names, might have many different boundaries or might not exist at all.” This esoteric gray area will be P-Recs’ future home.

permanent records

Image: Elizabeth Pierson/Mashable

Back when Permanent Records opened in Greenpoint in 2007, there were no other record stores in the area. Now, there are about five within walking distance. While Eisenberg isn’t territorial, she’s unequivocally sure of her influence on the neighborhood.

“I was one of the first businesses over on Franklin [Street] making it happen over there, regardless of what I was selling,” she says. “In that sense, I kind of feel like a pioneer.”

Perhaps because of her authenticity claim, she feels no sense of competition or ill feeling toward other nearby record store owners. She considers them her friends and peers. Greenpoint just happened to be an affordable place to go for some of those shops, like the Academy Annex, which was priced out of Williamsburg last year.

permanent records

P-Recs brand shirts and assorted vinyl cover the walls.

Image: Elizabeth Pierson/Mashable

One thing P-Recs is leaving behind in Greenpoint is the storefront. It was an easy way to rope in potential customers who might not have known about the shop.

“That curbside appeal we had is kind of inviting and attractive from the outside, so people, even if they don’t know we’re there … they notice it,” Eisenberg says. “That will be gone.”

permanent records

CDs go on sale for 99 cents during P-Recs’ moving sale.

Image: Elizabeth Pierson/Mashable

The new P-Recs just opened on Oct. 1, housed within BrooklynWorks, a self-described “coworking space” that serves as an office building for startups and various creative types. It’s the kind of space that seems like it would entice an entrepreneurial millennial, more so than a traditional record store owner.

Currently shacked up are photographers, literary agencies, nonprofit organizations, real estate agents and more. This new setup means customers will have to work a little bit harder to find P-Recs. Customers will need to buzz into the first floor and be directed to the store — not a crippling hurdle, but not as welcoming as a breezy storefront on Franklin Street.

“The onus is now on us to really make sure that people know where we are,” Eisenberg says. She jokingly describes the new space as a “speakeasy for records,” though she admits it could work against them. One way she plans on beefing up customer relations is by expanding their mail order business.

permanent records

Image: Elizabeth Pierson/Mashable

After spending a decade in the vinyl industry, Eisenberg is bored by the question “How do record stores keep up in the modern age?” Despite its ebbs and flows, vinyl sales have been steadily increasing since 2008 (though, for perspective, it only accounted for 2% of all album sales). For her, it’s what she knows best.

“I think it’s hard to have a small business, period,” she declares firmly.

permanent records

Milligan thinks keeping prices affordable is any record store’s greatest challenge.

“Making great records available for $3, $4, $5 apiece is really important,” he says. “[But] a dealer can’t come in here and buy everything for nothing! That’s no good either.”

Balance and a competitive edge is key, in a business where companies like Urban Outfitters are allegedly the largest sellers of vinyl in the world. (Billboard recently disputed this claim, saying UO actually came in second place, after Amazon — which is still worlds away from a mom-and-pop shop.)

permanent records

Image: Elizabeth Pierson/Mashable

One way P-Recs used to land new customers was by having in-store performances. Indie acts like Tune-Yards and Cymbals Eat Guitars would perform before they hit it big, while older artists like Doug Gillard of Guided by Voices also stopped by.

A personal favorite event of Eisenberg’s was a record release party for the band Sebadoh — the band handpicked 11 record stores across the country to play the album at the same time (documented in a short video).

Joining forces with BrooklynWorks will allow them to host more events, Eisenberg hopes. The store itself will probably be too tight, but the new building has event spaces that have room and potential.

Permanent Records

Image: Elizabeth Pierson/Mashable

There’s no looking wistfully back on Greenpoint. Heading into the yet-unnamed-Brooklynnia, Eisenberg still can’t pin down what new challenges truly await. A mix of industrialism and old businesses, the area hasn’t yet yielded to outside forces.

“Some neighborhoods don’t really change,” she says in the audible equivalent of a shrug. “Not every neighborhood has to get gentrified, luckily.”

With a little luck, Permanent Records might not have to change that much either.

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